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Near the end of 2020, the Trump Administration proposed Lead and Copper Rule Revisions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While originally slated to have already taken effect, these rule revisions met immediate opposition in the courtroom from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Earthjustice (on behalf of the NAACP and other organizations), as well as multiple states.
The central complaint concerning these proposed revisions is that these rules leave the 15 ppb (parts per billion) drinking water level untouched. This means that levels of lead can reach up to 15ppb before the government is required to take action. The NRDC argues that this level should be set “as close to the health goal of zero as is feasible.” Another major issue these organizations have cited is that the rules as proposed in December 2020 would allow most of the 6 to 10 million lead pipes that deliver water to homes across the country to remain in use permanently.
In response to these challenges, the EPA has delayed the enactment of these rule revisions until at least December 2021 in order to seek public input and adjust therewith. This includes hosting discussions with ten specific communities who are facing ongoing issues with lead-contaminated drinking water, one being Newark, NJ. In Newark, the NRDC filed suit in 2018 on behalf the Newark Education Worked (known as “NEW”) Caucus against the City of Newark for lead contamination in drinking water. By January 2021, Newark was working to remove over 18,000 lead service lines at no direct cost to the residents.
The resounding input from all of these communities and organizations so far has been clear: there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. Members of the NEW Caucus are calling on the EPA to take the action needed to safeguard our nation’s health so that other communities do not have to fight as hard for clean water as they did in Newark.
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